- Posted October 12, 2013 by
Bank Resuces Local Headstart - And Gets COMPLAINTS
By Robb Lightfoot
You find out who your friends are when you’re in trouble.
In Frank Capra’s movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life,” George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) faces down disaster and financial ruin. Wall Street’s collapse sparked panic in the nation. Terrified depositors swarmed his lobby and worse yet, the local bank—controlled by the wealthiest, meanest man in town—called his small lending company’s loan.
Those of you who remember the movie know what happened next. Only by putting up his own money, and being a calming force of reason, did he save the Bailey Building and Loan.
George overcame the stupidity and greed of big, impersonal forces outside Bedford Falls with his pluck, willpower, integrity, compassion, and trust in the basic goodness of his neighbors—the “little people.”
Critics called this 1947 movie “Capra-corn,” partly because they found the plot hokey and improbable. “It would never happen,” they said.
Except that it has, right here in Redding.
Our local story also begins with financial upheaval--America on the rocks of insolvency. And as the curtain goes up, many of our country’s weakest and most vulnerable have been sucked into the rip-tide of a nasty political storm. But unlike the Titanic, the cry “women and children first” hasn’t been uttered to get them into the lifeboats.
It’s a description of who’s been tossed into the water first.
According to Bill Moyer’s website, 23 Head Start programs around the nation that care for the needs of 3- and 4-year-olds saw their funds landlocked. A number of these centers have already closed.
Head Start is one of the most successful programs ever created. It began in 1965, and if you wonder what it does, here’s an excerpt from a description of their early-education program by the Department of Health and Human Services:
“The Early Head Start program serves low-income children birth to three years old, pregnant women, and their families. The program provides early, continuous, intensive, and comprehensive child development and family support services. It holds the promise of providing very young children the language-rich, stimulating environment they need to develop strong vocabularies and the capacity to master the early literacy, math, problem solving, and social interaction tasks of preschool. Or, stated more simply, the earlier children are in these language-rich environments, the less “catching up” preschool and elementary school programs have to do.”
Does it work? A recent HHS study left little doubt about the program’s ability to get at-risk children ready for kindergarten. Here’s what a December 2012 article in Reuters had to say:
“One question the HHS study does answer definitively is whether Head Start does its job. The program gets at-risk children ready for kindergarten in every aspect the study measured. After one year in Head Start, children showed gains in vocabulary, letter-word identification, mathematics and social-emotional development compared with peers. In addition, parents involved with the program used more appropriate discipline and spent more time engaging in literacy activities with their children.”
And there are also programs that help older kids, too.
So there’s little doubt that the return on investment is fabulous. In the America of George Bailey, all the little guy wanted was a chance, a shot at something better. If we expect people to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, then making sure they succeed in school isn’t just fair-minded or compassionate, it’s the essence of the American Dream. I’d go even further to say that the fate of Democracy hangs on the success of the most vulnerable citizens.
Which brings me back to the present predicament—the shutdown. Politicians are posturing, and some asserting that “essential services” will be maintained. This apparently means that THEY’LL get paid and that their gym remains open.
Really? So the little people are left to fend for themselves?
But fortunately for the residents of Shasta County, there IS a “George Bailey” among us, a hero who stepped up to insure the well-being of more than 600 at-risk children and 250 local parents and staff.
Cornerstone Community Bank—they’ve come up with $800,000 to keep Head Start operating here in Shasta County.
I had to look up Cornerstone on the Net when I read the news. I had no idea of who they were or even where the offices were located. But I wanted to know, because I decided it was time to vote with my dollars and take my accounts over to their institution. There are only two locations, one in Red Bluff and a newer one here in Redding at 150 East Cypress, just east of the Sacramento River.
I stepped into their small lobby and had the pleasure of meeting their staff. I expected to see hordes of people lined up to open accounts, or at least to thank them.
But I was wrong.
After a bit of research, I learned that some folks complained that the tiny bank hand helped out.
COMPLAINED? Yes, because they were opposed to the bank “giving money away to Head Start.”
REALLY? What is WRONG with these slimeballs?? I say it’s time to drain the swamps and send these monsters packing.
OK. Full disclosure—I’m a teacher, and I’ve dedicated my life to the idea that education uplifts people. I’m naturally predisposed to like programs like Head Start. But this sourpuss-attitude suggests there are some seriously misinformed people slinking about town on their knuckles, trailing their prehensile tails, and wholly ignorant of two simple truths, to wit:
o The bank made a LOAN.
o They did so based on the fact that the grant funds are ALREADY ALLOTTED and simply can’t be disbursed at the moment.
I’m not going to get into who should be blamed here, but I think it’s significant that in our small community, a modern-day George Bailey stepped up and made sure at-risk children were cared for. It wasn’t one of the mega-banks, who, after their bailouts, sure as hell could have afforded it.
No, it was a tiny, cozy little two-office community operation. The staff is small but friendly, and their rates, fees, and services are comparable with the mega-banks.
But they have one thing that you won’t find in the billion-buck banks.
They’ve got an oversized thank-you card, adorned with genuine finger-paint and handprints from some grateful Head-Start preschoolers. It’s just a two- by three-foot poster made by kids that you or I may never meet. But, if we still care about our community, our neighbors, then they’re still our kids, too.
At least that’s what the folks at Cornerstone Community Bank think.
I’ll take that over a drive-up window, a fancy marquee and a slick media campaign. Cornerstone’s move gives me a bit of faith in my fellow man.
And George Bailey would be proud of them, too.